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NBA Finals: Celtics hold off Mavericks for 3-0 series lead

UPI

June 12 (UPI) -- Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum combined for 61 points and the Boston Celtics held off a desperate rally from the Dallas Mavericks to win Game 3 of the NBA Finals, taking a 3-0 series lead Wednesday in Dallas.

The Celtics held a 21-point advantage in the fourth quarter, but the Mavericks clawed back to within one in the final minutes. Tatum, Brown and the Celtics defense then regained composure, closing out the 106-99 victory at the American Airlines Center.

The Celtics now need just one more win to claim a record 18th NBA Finals crown. No team has ever recovered from a 3-0 NBA Finals deficit. Game 4 of the best-of-seven game series will be Friday in Dallas.

"We aren't relaxing or anything like that," Tatum told reporters. "We're not even focusing on winning on Friday or whatever. However long it takes, that's our motto. However long it takes, that's what it's going to take. It's not time to relax at all."

The Celtics, who played without injured center Kristaps Porzingis, are on a 10-game playoff winning streak. They are 7-0 on the road this postseason.

"They put a ton of pressure on [our] defensive game plan throughout," Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said of the Mavericks. "You just gotta stick with the discipline.

"We we were able to do that and made plays down the stretch."

All-NBA guard Luka Doncic scored 13 in the first quarter to carry the Mavericks, who used a 13-5 run for early momentum. The Celtics eventually rallied with an 11-0 surge, but the Mavericks dragged a 31-30 lead into the second quarter.

Doncic started to struggle offensively toward the end of the first quarter and carried an 0 for 6 shooting skid into the second. The Celtics took their first lead 2 minutes into the frame. The game stayed close throughout the quarter, but the Mavericks still held a 51-50 edge at the break.

Tatum and Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving scored 20 points apiece in the first half. Doncic netted 17 through the first 24 minutes. The Mavericks outscored the Celtics 30-16 in the paint in the first half.

The Celtics, who held a 13-7 edge in first-half assists, stayed in rhythm in the second half, making their first seven shots to build an advantage.

Brown scored 13 in the third quarter, when the Celtics made 65% of their shots. They carried an 85-70 edge into the fourth.

Brown continued to smolder, helping the Celtics increase their lead to 21 with 11:07 remaining. The Mavericks answered with a 22-2 run in the fourth quarter, cutting the deficit to one with 3:37 remaining.

The Mavericks were forced to play without Doncic, who fouled out, over the final 4 minutes. The Celtics answered the Mavericks late surge with baskets on consecutive possessions from Brown and Derrick White.

Mavericks center Dereck Lively II then cut the deficit to two points with 1:20 remaining, but Brown answered with a jump shot 19 seconds later. The Mavericks then failed to make their final three shot attempts while the Celtics put the game away at the free throw line.

The Celtics outshot the Mavericks 46.3% to 44.2%. They also logged 26 assists, compared to the Mavericks' 15. The Mavericks edged the Celtics 52-36 in points in the paint and held a 52-43 advantage in rebounding.

Irving scored a game-high 35 points. Doncic recorded 27 points, but made just 11 of 27 shot attempts. Lively recorded 11 points and 13 rebounds off the Mavericks bench.

Tatum led the Celtics with 31 points. He also chipped in six rebounds and five assists. Brown totaled 30 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. White scored 16 points in the victory.

"We had a good chance," Doncic said. "We were close, but just didn't get it."

The Mavericks will host the Celtics in Game 4 at 8:30 p.m. EDT Friday in Dallas. Game 5, if necessary, will be Monday in Boston.